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Style n' Sh*t: Glade Optics

We are STOKED about our new partnership with Glade Optics--a super stylish ski goggles and sunglasses company. They offer really high quality eyewear while keeping the prices low with a factory-to-consumer business model. Keep reading to learn more about Glade’s founding and its journey of growth since then from its founder, Curt!

Tell us a little about how the idea for Glade Optics came to be. How did you decide on the business model and design for the goggles and sunglasses?

I grew up and avid skier (snowboarder back then) and always had the itch to strike it out on my own in the business world.. I had a few projects here and there in high school and college but nothing that I was taking too seriously. After college I was working in the research arm of a large market research firm based in Boston where I was exposed to a ton of innovative companies and business models and had the great fortune of being able to speak with many of the key decision makers in these companies. Before long it became clear to me that the consumer goods/retail industry was at an inflection point in terms of low barrier to entry and a huge influx of young people who purchase items in an entirely new way.

The factory-to-consumer model is (in my mind) a fantastic way to take advantage of this changing landscape because it allows us to sells our goggles at a much more favorable price point than our competitors without skimping on quality. By avoiding retail shops and only selling online we completely cut that layer of cost out of the equation and can pass those savings onto our customers. It's a simple but powerful model.

There will certainly be a subset of consumers who will always want to go into a shop to try on gear, so we offer free returns to encourage anyone to give our goggles a shot. We find that the vast majority of people ordering our goggles just to try them on end up keeping them - our return rate is crazy low and we're super proud of that.

The design of the goggles and sunglasses is a story of constant iteration - I would never consider myself a design expert so we rely on a pretty cool combination of customer feedback and crowdsourced designs to shape the way our gear looks. We send out a survey to past customers every 6 months basically asking "what kind of gear are you looking to buy next year?" "what would like to see in our future product lines?" etc. and we get a ton of great feedback. It's an awesome way to inject the voice of our customers into our product design and this process helps mitigate a lot of the uncertainty that comes with releasing new products.

How has Glade grown and expanded since its founding? What has that experience been like for you?

It's been a wild ride. I started the brand in the winter of 2014/15 and we've grown substantially every winter (and now summers too!) since then. It has been an incredible experience both from a business education standpoint and learning the "art of the hustle" which I'm sure you guys over there are familiar with as well. There is no "off" button on a business like this so it's legitimately a 24/7 endeavor. My biggest takeaway from this experience thus far is that there really is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and simply doing the work. You can read all the books in the world and never really understand what it's like day to day to build something from the ground up - both from a problem solving perspective and balancing the emotional and 'ego' side of things.

Besides your incredibly reasonable prices, how do you differentiate yourselves from other, big name eyewear companies?

Our customer base. Our customers are super supportive and really appreciative of what we're doing - I think the ski community in general is a great tribe to have behind you as they are generally a no bullshit community that knows what they like and more importantly what they don't like. Our Instagram channel is almost completely dedicated to customer generated content - we love seeing our products out in the wild and getting the chance to showcase the everyday skier on our Instagram channel. There is tremendous focus on the "extreme" side of skiing from our competitors - but this experience just isn't relatable to 99% of skiers and snowboarders. We think that the lighter side of skiing (hooting and hollering down the hill on pow days, reliving every turn on the lift back up, eating shit on the last run of the day, grabbing that apres ski beer with your friends) is where the real magic of skiing resides.

What kind of lifestyles or types of customers do you usually target?

Our customers are generally early adopters who aren't afraid to buy gear online and are looking for a community and message behind the gear they buy. We are definitely heavily trafficked by "Millennials", as much as I hate that generalization I think it's an accurate description of the age demographic of our customer base. Probably goes without saying that our customers are active and heavily involved in outdoor activities throughout all four seasons.

She's the Sh*t: Milicent Armstrong

Meet Milicent Armstrong, a down to earth go-getter who started her own business, Artemis Designs. Artemis Designs is best known for its one of a kind kilim loafer shoes handmade from Turkish flying carpets, but Milicent’s collections include other shoe designs, bags, and some home goods. Artemis Design’s pieces have been featured at fine retailers including Steven Alan, United Arrows of Japan, Anthropologie, Tuckernuck and Of A Kind--so it’s kind of a big deal!!

City: 
Boston, MA

Favorite part of your day:
Drinking a latte in the morning and doing work on my computer before anyone else gets up.  Second favorite is getting into bed at night.

You mentioned the other day that you took email off of your phone… can you shed some more light on your decision to do that and how it’s affected your work/life balance?
That lasted for about 3 hours….until I realized that the only way to get photos from my computer to my phone was via email.  I originally decided to delete the Mail app on my phone, because I noticed that I would check my email constantly from my phone, but never actually reply from there.  So checking my email obsessively on my phone was really pointless.
In general I’m trying to use my phone less, and less.  If I go out to dinner with friends or Brian, I’ll leave my phone at home. Just having it in your purse makes it easy for your mind to wander to other things and not focus on the people you are with. I can feel an enormous difference in my experiences with people when my phone is there versus when it is not.  I remember the first time I left it at home and didn’t bring it to the dog park with Brian and Gerry. Normally I would be using the time “productively” to instagram something for Artemis, but I didn’t and I focused on having fun with my dog and Brian, and not having the temptation to work was amazing...it sounds so lame but I still look fondly on that dog park visit, and now I try to never bring my phone when I’m spending time with Brian or friends!  There SO rarely is a real emergency where you would need to have your phone.  Here’s an article about how just having your phone physically on you reduces the quality of time you spend with someone. Even having it on your desk (article) will reduce the quality of your work.
 
What was a major benchmark since starting Artemis that made you say to yourself, “woah this is actually working!”:
I remember the first time we were featured in a publication- it was Daily Candy- it was so exciting.  Getting a wholesale order from Steven Alan, before we even had a website was an exciting benchmark.  

When you see a stranger wearing your shoes or carrying one of your gorgeous bags, how does that make you feel? Do you ever say anything to them?:
It makes me so happy to see strangers with my products! I also love hearing when people make connections with other people because they both have an Artemis product on them, or they recognize the product on someone else.  I always say something to people when it makes sense (I don’t chase someone down the street!). I love to make the connection with the wearer and find out how they like the piece, how they found out about us, invite them to visit my studio, etc.  I love to make the wearer feel connected to the brand.

If you were to meet someone who was thinking of starting their own brand and they asked you for a few words of brutally honest advice, what would it be?
The first advice would be to make sure that you have a great product, something that someone else isn’t already doing better than you.  That’s the most important thing- make sure you are selling a new or significantly better thing, it’s the only way you are going to compete and get people excited about your brand.  
Second piece of advice is to just go for it!  You will learn so much on the way that you could have never prepared yourself for….so don’t not start because you don’t feel prepared enough.  

Girl Crush:
Probably Lulu DK

Favorite STIK product and why:
I love my white pom pom hat!  It is warm, comfy, and the pom pom is just adorable.

Merino Wool Series: Smartwool

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If you’ve ever skied or done any cold weather activity, you’ve probably worn or at least encountered a Smartwool product. Smartwool, despite its size, has made a conscious effort to source responsibly and transparently--using the best, most ethical practices at each step of production. Smartwool sources from New Zealand from a company called ZQ, which is particularly concerned with ensuring environmental, social and economic sustainability and safeguards animal welfare. Smartwool considers merino wool “nature’s finest” and appreciates that merino wool is comfortable, dependable and breathable during all seasons--in extremely hot temperatures and extremely cold temperatures.

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